In October 2017, an 18-year-old girl — known as Anna Doe in court documents and who posts on social media under the screenname Anna Chambers — came forward to accuse two NYPD cops of arresting, then raping her. Six months later, she's still fighting for justice, and her story is inspiring a fight for legislation to make it illegal for cops to have sex with people they arrest — something that is legal in 35 states, including New York.
We've been following Anna's story since October, but her case is getting renewed attention thanks to a recent article by BuzzFeed, in which reporter Albert Samaha interviewed Anna as well as activists who are fighting to make it illegal for cops to have sex with detainees.
Anna, a Brooklyn native, says she was sitting in a car with two male friends in October when two plainclothes detectives approached them and made them exit the vehicle after finding weed in the cup holder. The detectives let the two male friends go, but arrested Anna. She says they handcuffed her, then put her in the back of an unmarked police van with tinted windows and then took turns raping her while driving aimlessly through the streets. Anna says she said “No” many times before they dumped her on the side of the road a little less than an hour after it had begun. Afterwards, her mother took her to a hospital where she had a rape kit taken. The DNA matched two narcotics detectives: Eddie Martins and Richard Hall.
Since then, both cops have resigned and been charged with rape, but it was not as simple as Anna had first thought it would be, and it still isn’t. In the state of New York, there is no law explicitly stating cops cannot have sex with people in their custody. In 35 states, police officers can use a consent defense to escape any sexual assault charges. In most of these states, the only thing a cop can be charged with is the misdemeanor of “official misconduct,” with a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison — and Martins and Hall claim they had consensual sex with Anna. Furthermore, Anna and her mother say that nine other NYPD cops went to the hospital to try to intimidate Anna out filing rape charges. Anna says they're still trying: “I see police cars park on my block all the time. I feel like I’m being watched.”
The loophole exists because most people assume there is a law on the books criminalizing sex between cops and detainees, because there is such a glaring power dynamic. Some states have tried to fill it in, but many haven’t because advocating for greater regulations to be put on police officers is akin to playing with political fire.
The trial process for Anna coincided with the explosion of the #MeToo movement and a national reckoning with sexual assault. Activists have called out institutionalized rape by law enforcement, and three police chiefs have been fired and 21 police officers have resigned or have been fired due to sexual misconduct since October. Anna’s own story inspired New York City Councilman Mark Treyger to introduce a bill making sex between a police officer and a detainee a crime.
Like many other survivors, Anna took to Twitter and Instagram to tell her story and give updates on the legal process. She has amassed a following and interacted with both her supporters and haters. However, defense lawyers are using Anna’s social media against her in an effort to discredit her. They are compiling old posts about sex or weed to make her appear unreliable or promiscuous, and have repeatedly tried to use these posts to get the district attorney to drop Anna’s case. In response, she tweeted “Who gives a fuck what I post[?]”
The trial hasn’t even begun yet, and likely won’t for some time — and along with filing a lawsuit against the cops who she says raped her, Anna also filed a lawsuit against the city. Both cases required her to tell her story in detail many times to many different people, a preview of the grueling experience the actual trial will be. Anna, who is now 19, sits in her room most days, posting on social media. Her most recent court appearance put her once again in the same room as her alleged perpetrators. Her post on Instagram later that night was captioned, “Its disgusting seeing these monsters 12 ft away from me.”
Anna told BuzzFeed she's surprised that her case might lead to changes in the law: she came forward "to encourage other victims to come forward," because "police aren't supposed to be doing this." But she's glad that people are paying attention: "All it took was one voice," she says.
top photo via Scott Davidson/Wikimedia Commons
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Anna Greer was an editorial intern spring 2018 and is a senior at the University of Tennessee, where she studies comics and human rights. When she is not engaged in feminist activism, she usually can be found wearing Doc Martens and looking at Star Wars prequel memes. Follow her @activistanna42